’s Future Essay, Research Paper
Should We Be Guardedly Optimistic About Russia s Economic and Political Future?
It remains to be seen whether Russia will be successful in converting to a capitalistic and democratic society. Since 1989, Russia has slowly deteriorated into a country in great crises. The GDP has decreased at about a 9% per year since 1990 and more and more Russians are going into poverty every year. This is a big problem, Russia is still a nuclear power, and we do not want them to get in a situation where they feel they must lash out. The country has so much potential, only the United States rivals Russia in natural resources. In many ways, Russia is making progress; the citizens do have more freedom now than at any time in their history. It is unfortunate that the vast majority of the Russians cannot enjoy this freedom.
It is in both the World s and the United State s best interest that Russia becomes economically stable and prosperous. The United States should do whatever it can to help Russia achieve these goals. For that to happen, The US may have to accept that their initial recommendations to the Russians have failed. Over the years, the Russian people have come to distrust the intentions of the American Government. Though our government meant well, it has made things much worse for the Russian people. It is important that we right these wrongs, but should we be optimistic about the future of Russia on its present course.
To views on this question are presented in John T. Rourke s Taking Sides. Stephen Sestanovich, who is ambassador-at-large and special adviser to the secretary of state for the New Independent States, gives the view that we should be guardedly optimistic. Peter Reddaway, who is a professor of political science, gives a counter view. Both views provided a great deal of information in selling their views and in certain instances it seemed that they provided too much information or information that really had no bearing. Both did a good job of explaining that a prosperous Russia makes for a more stable Europe, if not the whole world.
Stephen Sestanovich made an effective argument for being optimistic about Russia s future. He was believable mostly because he did not try to make the situation in Russia seem better than it was. He chose to be totally frank in every point that he made. This is an effective strategy in arguing his side because intelligent people want to see both sides of situation before making a decision. If Sestanovich chose to only talk about the positives, an intelligent reader would be very skeptical.
Sestanovich points out progress in 3 key areas. The first area is Security/Non Proliferation. He expresses his and the US s frustration with the fact that Russia has not signed the START 2 treaty, at this time, START 2 has been ratified by the Russians.
Sestanovich also mentions that during a G8 meeting in Birmingham, Yeltsin joined in with the others in condemning India s reckless nuclear tests. He also points out that the Russians seem to be taking seriously the dangers of leaking sensitive technology to nations such as Iran. He talks about the steps Moscow has taken to control these leaks. Sestanovich points out that the top leadership has now made it clear that they are committed to stopping the spread of nuclear technology, where as before it wasn t quite so clear. Secondly Russia is putting place a regulatory structure to control the flow of sensitive technology and that Russian Space Agency has been assigned over-sight responsibility for the entire space rocket industry. And thirdly, the United States is working with the Russians to strengthen their export control systems.
The second area where Sestanovich cites Russian progress is in the area of Democracy, Human Rights, and Religious Freedom. He points out that in 1997, Russia passed a potentially discriminative law concerning religion. It required that a new religion must wait 15 years after registering before receiving basic legal rights. Action was quickly taken to negate this law. He points out that Russia has initiated programs to support free and fair elections, the development of independent media, and the promotion of accountable and responsive municipal governments. These are important factors in building a democratic society.
` The third area of progress Sestanovich mentions is the US Russia Economic Relationship. He points out the progress Russia has made in converting to a market economy. Currently 70 percent of the GDP is produced by the private sector. He said that Russia joined the Paris Club as a creditor member and had been invited to join the Asian Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC). Sestanovich points out that progress in Russia whether good or bad will move slowly because this is still new to the Russian people.
Peter Reddaway gives the opposing view of whether the US should be optimistic about Russia s future. He makes some strong points against being optimistic about Russia s future. He points out that a majority of Russians are beginning to doubt capitalism. The majority is showing distrust of the United States and it s initiatives. He cited a recent poll in which 60-70 percent of Russians polled believed that America was trying to reduce Russia to a second rate power and a producer of raw materials. This is also leading to a mistrust of the Russian government itself because they feel the government is giving in to US demands.
Reddaway also mentions the belief that there is no rule of law in Russia and that the laws are used to benefit the elite but not the average citizen. He also talks about government corruption substituting for the rule of law. In fact one government official said the corruptions is an important social function in Russia and that nothing could get done without it. Reddaway talks about the Governments Non-Accountability; the fact that many workers are not getting paid despite all the IMF loans. This is happening while the top 5-10 percent of the population is living a life of luxury and excess. Many Russians believe that the elite view ordinary citizens as only a nuisance. So in retrospect, Reddaway has some legitimate points in his beliefs.
When comparing the two views, Sestanovich was more convincing because he came across as being more honest. Though he is Russian, he did not hesitate in pointing out the faults of Russia. Reddaway had good points, but he only saw it from one side. He chose to leave out the positive trends in Russia. This is a mistake because most persons are skeptical of one-sided views.
Also, there is nothing wrong with being optimistic as long as you are prepared for the alternative. You can be optimistic about winning the lottery, but as long as you don t quit your job before you win, there is no harm done. The US should be guardedly optimistic of Russia s future because it is in our best interest. If you are not optimistic that you can succeed, more than likely you will not attempt to succeed. It is important to be prepared for the failure of capitalism and democracy in Russia. We should not destroy all of our nuclear weapons while allowing them to keep their arsenals, but we should continue to work with Russia to get control of their systems. The US may have to swallow its pride and admit that its suggested policies have not worked and we may have to work out new plans to bring Russia around. It is important that the US make every effort to assist the Russians, It is in our best interest as well as the whole worlds.